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Flipping the Script: “Have to” vs. “Get to”

Chances are you probably spend quite a bit of time around at least one person who seems like they constantly have something to complain about. If you do know that person, you likely also know that it’s not very much fun to spend time with them. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad friend for silently admitting this, it only means you’re human, because negative thoughts don’t make us happier, plain and simple. And even though we can all agree on this, nearly all of us still find ourselves grumbling about one thing or another every once in a while. Not only do we bring those around us down when we do this, but we also dig ourselves into a deeper hole of dissatisfaction. So how can we kick this habit to the curb once and for all? Well, I won’t claim to know the answer to that question altogether, but today we will explore one simple habit we can use to flip our perspective and cut out complaining. Disclaimer: I also don’t have the answer for how to get rid of your chronic complainer friend.

Related: Is This You? “Running Sucks!”

Based on the title, you may have already guessed that the tool we’ll be talking about today is moving from a place of “have to”, to one of “get to”. In a literal sense, this means paying attention when we’re talking to ourselves or others and when you’re about to say “I have to ____”, say “I get to___” instead, even if that sentence is finished with work late, do 100 burpees, or anything else you dread.

“When we start to frame our lives around the idea that we “get to” do everything we’re doing, we’re practicing gratitude for our situation and taking control of our own happiness.”

The science behind this tool lies in positive psychology. This simple change in vocabulary turns obligations into moments of gratitude, because the more you catch yourself doing this, you start to realize that you truly do “get to” do everything in your life. Take laundry for example. You might despise all the loads of laundry that seem to be constantly piling up, but catching yourself and deciding to say out loud “I get to do laundry” might just make you realize that this is a blessing in disguise. You have an entire closet full of clothes, which is much more than many people can say, so yeah, you do “get to” do laundry as a result.

I don’t want you to think I’m trying to make you feel bad for every minor complaint you have in your life, because your feelings are valid. But I do think we could all (myself included) do a better job of seeing the positive side of many of the things we consider to be burdens. Even doing this for the things we have a hard time seeing any positive side to – like traffic for me – and “faking it till you make it”, will start to cultivate a more positive mindset. This is extremely beneficial, because our perspective in life is consistent through many situations. If we allow the thoughts of “I’ll be happier if/when…” to creep in at any point, we set ourselves up for the mentality that we’re not happy right now, and that something outside of our control is keeping us from being happy.

Related: How do I Create Lasting Change In My Life?

 A study at the University of California, Riverside found that the percentage of our capacity for happiness that is within our control is 40%. Woah, let’s digest that a bit. This means that 60% of our capacity to be happy lies in our situation, and the other 40% in how we think about our situation and the things we do to make the most of it. But I’d argue that our situation is more within our control than out of it, which would push that needle even farther up from 40%. No one is forcing you to do anything, you’ve made countless choices up to this point in your life that have lead you to where you are now. Therefore, when we start to frame our lives around the idea that we “get to” do everything we’re doing, we’re practicing gratitude for our situation and taking control of our own happiness.

Related: What “Better Than Yesterday” Means to Me

Many studies have found that focusing even a little bit on gratitude leads to a greater sense of happiness, fewer health complaints, more time spent exercising, and many other positive side effects. And one of the simplest ways we can practice gratitude is to swap  “get to” for “have to”.

Quick word of warning though: this isn’t a quick process. I first heard about this philosophy about three years ago, and am still working on it to this day. But I can tell you that, like most things that require consistent effort, it is worth it. Every time I catch myself and decide to flip the script, a sense of peace and comfort washes over me, and I look forward to the day when I will always have that feeling. Go ahead, give it a try. Start simple; you get to go to work tomorrow because you have a job, you get to make dinner because you have plenty of food, you get to do a tough workout and get stronger. See? It’s working already.

–Jay Alexander

Coach/Trainer

jay@crossfitslipstream.com

What “Better Than Yesterday” Means to Me

Back when I was in high school, I remember thinking that standardized tests would either be my ticket to the big leagues or lead to my catastrophic downfall. While that may have just been the dramatic teenage hormones talking, this mindset did lead me to have my first encounter with serious goal setting. Four months before my first test, I wrote my goal score on a sticky note, hung it above my desk, and sat down to make a calendar of what I would do every day leading up to the test.

“It means that every day that we put in the work, we’re getting closer to reaching our goals, regardless of whether or not we felt better on that particular day.”

Over the course of those next few months I took countless practice tests, learned more strategies than I could use, and flipped through stacks of vocabulary flashcards. Most days after school, practices, and homework, the last thing I wanted to do was study, but I made sure to at least do something small every day that would get me closer to that daunting number hanging above my desk. When it came to test day, despite my nerves, I did even better than that goal I had set four months earlier.

Related: Start With Why

While tests in high school turned out to be much less significant in life than I thought they would be, the process I went through to reach my goals taught me some pretty critical lessons that have stuck with me far longer than any of those vocab words I memorized. Most of what this situation taught me was that the big goals we reach in life don’t happen in big steps. Instead, we realize those goals through tiny, incremental steps that slowly add up to the important stuff. This holds true across the board in nearly every aspect of self-improvement that we can think of; school, fitness, work, relationships, even things like cooking.

“Progress doesn’t come easy, but it will come if we commit to steady improvement.”

Related: 3 Reasons to Log Your Workouts

The hard part with this though, is that it means we don’t get to “see” progress happening since it comes in such small steps. Instead, we have to learn to trust the process, believing wholeheartedly that the work we’re putting in will pay off down the road. This is what “Better Than Yesterday” means to me. This one simple quote reminds me to spend even just a little bit of time each day working on improving myself. It means that every day that we put in the work, we’re getting closer to reaching our goals, regardless of whether or not we felt better on that particular day. Not every day will be a good day. So many things in life are out of our control, and we all feel too busy to make progress sometimes. But with this mindset, we don’t have to hit major milestones every day. In fact, those days that feel hard but we still put in the work are invaluable at teaching us to endure. Progress doesn’t come easy, but it will come if we commit to steady improvement.

Related: 3 Key Elements of a Successful Nutrition Plan

Every time I look above the whiteboard and see those words now, I’m reminded to trust the process, and that if I put my head down and work, I am on my way to becoming the best version of myself, whether I see it or not. But whatever the quote means to you, let it serve as a reminder that every day, both in the gym and out, we should seek to take a step forward and not backward. Let’s go be better than yesterday.

–Jay Alexander

Coach/Trainer

jay@crossfitslipstream.com

OCTOBER MEMBER HIGHLIGHT – MEET BRIAN!

Brian has been a member at CrossFit Slipstream for 9 months!  He started at CrossFit Slipstream by doing the 6 week New You Challenge and decided to stay for the CrossFit program.  He’s a friendly guy that makes everyone feel at home.   Brian has been challenging himself to do more and more in the gym so that he can do more adventures outside of the gym.  Read what Brian has to say about CrossFit below:

1.Why did you decide to try CrossFit?

I had considered joining several times before I actually did but I joined as I recently got out of a rough relationship and wanted a fresh start. Having never done CrossFit at all I knew I wanted to try something different.

2. How has having a coach changed your workout or fitness results?

Having the many coaches around has been extremely helpful. They really don’t get enough kudos for how well they support their members. I have seen more results with CrossFit then any other gym routine I have done.  I know there is still plenty of progress left but I know what I must do for it to happen.

3. How has CrossFit affected your life/health?

Not that my self confidence needs to be inflated more but knowing and learning what am I physically able to do has greatly supported other aspects of my life.  Knowing that if I can do a CrossFit workout, I have learned to do many many other things.  Recently that included my first ever 5k Spartan Race!! Now I’m working on a 10k for next summer!!

4. What would you say to someone who is thinking about trying CrossFit?

Yes the workouts are challenging. They are supposed to be and they don’t ever get easier, only faster. If you want to change your life and have the mentality of pushing yourself for more, then this is the way to do.  The coaches at Slipstream really can’t be any better.  Every one is super supportive and kind.  Every one has their rough days at the gym but it doesn’t matter as the community and fellow members truly support your goals and drive to be healthier.

Zero to Hero: Drills for Your First Pull-Up

Pull-ups are one of the most simple and effective back, shoulder, and arm exercises we have, providing a huge “bang for your buck”, perfect for those of us who don’t want to or can’t spend 8 hours in a gym every day. All we have to do is hang from a bar and pull ourselves up until our chin is over the bar, easy enough, right? If you found yourself shouting “Wrong!”, then you’re in the right place. Today, we’ll go over four drills that will help develop our grip and upper body pulling strength to reach the iconic fitness milestone of our first strict pull-up.

Related: The Slipstream Approach to Training

To be clear, we’re focusing solely on strict pull-ups here. While kipping may make the movement easier, it is essential to injury prevention to build a strong base of strict pull-ups before moving on to kipping. By being patient and taking this route, we ensure that all the ligaments, tendons, and muscles that make up the shoulder joint are strong enough to handle the increased demands that kipping places on them. All these drills we’ll go over are intended to be done separately, so 10 minutes before or after a class focusing on one of them is all you need to start making progress towards this elusive goal.

Related: 4 Simple Shoulder Mobility Movements

  1. ACTIVE HANG

To begin this drill, stand underneath a bar you can reach on your tiptoes. Start by wrapping both hands as far over the bar as possible, knuckles facing away from you. Pick your feet up off the ground, and now we’ll focus on finding the “active” position. Starting from the top down, we want our head neutral with gaze straight forward, and shoulders active by slightly pulling your shoulder blades down. Squeeze the belly, point the toes, and bring feet just slightly in front of the bar. Every muscle in the body will feel fired up here. Start small by holding this position for 10-15 seconds, and work on this until you can hold for 1 minute unbroken.

  1. SCAPULAR PULL-UPS

This drill will build on the active hang position, so make sure you’ve mastered the first drill before moving on to scapular (“scap”) pull-ups. For these we’ll start in the active hang position, and then focus on pressing down and into the bar to pull our shoulder blades back and down even further. Arms stay fully extended throughout this and continue to focus on squeezing the belly. In the finish position the body will still be in one line but tilted slightly backwards when viewed from side. Start with 3 sets of as many as you can, and work on these until you can do 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

  1. NEGATIVE PULL-UPS

To start this drill, place a box underneath the bar so that the bar is only a couple inches above your head. You can think of these as reverse pull-ups, where we slowly lower down instead of pulling up. This eccentric or lengthening phase of a movement is one of the most effective ways to build strength, even though you’re not doing an actual pull-up. Jump up so that the chin is over the bar, and cross ankles behind you. Lower down as slowly as possible, which may be anywhere from 3 to 10 seconds. While lowering, focus on not letting the elbows flare out to the sides too far, and control the movement all the way down until the arms are fully extended before placing your feet back on the box. Jump back up and repeat for 3 sets of 5 reps.

  1. BARBELL PULL-UPS

The setup for this drill is a bit complicated, but definitely worth it. To start, place a barbell onto j-hooks about hip height or a bit higher. Wrap bands around the end of the barbell and j-hooks to secure the barbell in place. Then place a box a couple feet in front of the bar. Now, to start the drill, sit underneath the barbell, grab onto it, and place heels on the box in front of you. In this starting position, arms should be fully extended and hips should be off the ground. Start with active shoulders, just like we did in the active hang, and initiate the movement with a scap pull-up. Pull-up to the bar with elbows staying in close to side body. Work on these until you can complete 3 sets of 3-5 reps without feeling like you’re driving into the box with the feet. If in the beginning, these are still very difficult, raise the barbell to take more of the load out of our arms, so keep working on these and lower the bar one or two holes every time you work on these.

Related: How Do I Stay Consistent With My Fitness?

If it seems like progress on these drills is moving slowly for you, don’t get discouraged! Pull-ups are incredibly difficult and require a range of skills besides strength, like stability and total body coordination. Therefore, it may take quite a bit of time to build up to even be able to do just one. But know that if you’re in it for the long haul, the feeling when you finally do get your chin over the bar will be that much sweeter.

–Jay Alexander

Coach/Trainer

jay@crossfitslipstream.com

SEPTEMBER MEMBER HIGHLIGHT – MEET MATT!

Matt has been a member at CrossFit Slipstream for over a year!  A long time bodybuilder, he joined with the main goals of doing some cardio, while not losing any of his hard-earned upper body muscle.  The secret to his early success was consistently attending 2 times a week in addition to his bodybuilding workouts.  After discovering the value of a Slipstream membership, he has come to appreciate what greater endurance can do for him, and recognized a need to build muscle in his legs to improve his proportion and performance.  He recently increased his membership to 3 times a week and is seeing his results improve significantly.  Read what Matt has to say about CrossFit below:

1.Why did you decide to try CrossFit?

I liked the concept of weight lifting + cardio workouts together.  It’s something I just won’t do on my own.

2. How has having a coach changed your workout or fitness results?

I have much more endurance and my form has greatly improved.

3. How has CrossFit affected your life/health?

My endurance and overall sense of well-being has improved.  And girls won’t stop looking at me ;O

4. What would you say to someone who is thinking about trying CrossFit?

I’ve been promoting it since I started!  CrossFit Slipstream has a great group of peeps!  Give it a try!

Making Sense of the Keto Craze

In the past year or so, you may have heard chatter about this ketogenic – “keto” for short – diet that seems to be sweeping the nation, and becoming especially popular in the fitness community. While this may make you want to immediately label it a fad, the ketogenic diet has actually been around since the 1920s, so it warrants  a closer look.  We’ll examine the ketogenic diet to get a better sense of what it is, how to do it, and most importantly, whether and why someone might follow it.

Related: Start With Why

In the simplest terms possible, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet that aims to change the main fuel source of the body from carbohydrates to fat. At its purest form, this means that up to 80% of a person’s calories would come from fat, and less than 5% from carbohydrate. Compare this to the American Heart Association’s recommendation to consume no more than 30% of daily caloric intake from fat, and you immediately start to see how vastly different this diet truly is. All our lives, we’ve been told fat is bad, so how would a diet that argues that a large majority of calories should come from fat provide any health benefit at all? To understand how this might work, we need to first understand another term: ketosis.

Ketosis is a metabolic state where energy is primarily derived from the breakdown of triglycerides (fat stores in the body), instead of the breakdown of glucose and glycogen that are derived from carbohydrates. Breaking down triglycerides produces compounds known as ketone bodies, which then travel in the bloodstream, and thus are a key marker of when a person is experiencing ketosis. This state occurs in all humans regardless of diet, but typically only in a “postabsorptive state.” This occurs when we haven’t eaten in over four hours.  A person on a ketogenic diet is nearly always in this state, so this diet dramatically changes our physiology.

Related: Protein Intake for Best Results

Originally, the ketogenic diet was designed for epilepsy patients, who experience fewer seizures when the brain and nervous tissue are powered by ketone bodies instead of glucose.  But how did this diet spread from a niche medical treatment to the latest big thing? The answer lies in the various studies that have supported the notion that the diet may provide health benefits we didn’t know about – or value – until recently.  Fat loss, blood sugar management, lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood, as well as cancer prevention are all possible benefits of depriving the body from carbohydrates, but the research is not yet conclusive.

Related: 3 Key Elements of a Successful Nutrition Plan

While all this may sound great, how can we determine whether the ketogenic diet will work for us or not?  First, remember that “diets” don’t work, long-term changes to dietary patterns do.  Ask yourself if cutting nearly all grains out of your life would be sustainable.  Another thing to consider for active individuals is that during exercise, especially intense exercise, glycogen stores in our muscles are our main energy source.  Consuming very little carbohydrate would all but deplete these stores and may leave you feeling tired and decrease exercise performance, although this isn’t the case for everyone.

Finally, if you truly are considering a strict ketogenic diet, I would highly encourage you to consult a medical professional to determine if this diet would be advisable for you, since there are risks involved concerning blood sugar levels.  But if you’re not considering this diet, not all is lost, because there is still plenty to learn from it.  Look up any keto food list and at the top you’ll see vegetables, meat, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats like various oils.  Focusing on revolving our meals around these foods, even while still allowing some fruits, grains, and dairy, will be beneficial for nearly all of us.

–Jay Alexander

Coach/Trainer

jay@crossfitslipstream.com

CrossFit on Caffeine

In recent years, caffeine culture and CrossFit have become inextricably linked. There are even clothing brands dedicated to this seemingly disparate combination. To trace the roots of this combo, we have to go back to times even before CrossFit was founded: the 1970’s. It was in this decade that scientists began to study the effects of caffeine on athletic performance.

“Perhaps the most significant performance enhancement due to caffeine comes from the widely documented decrease in rate of perceived exertion, allowing us to perform at a higher intensity.”

Before we get into the discussion of how caffeine affects our performance and overall health, we must first acknowledge the fact that by all realms of classification, caffeine is a drug, and one of the most widely consumed drugs in the world. Caffeine acts as a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, antagonizing or “blocking” adenosine receptors. This increases the release of certain neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and norepinephrine, which are key players in energizing our bodies. Because of these dramatic effects on the CNS, caffeine was even included in the list of prohibited substances by the World Anti-Doping Agency until 2004.

With that being said, it has become clear that caffeine does in fact have performance enhancing benefits. The stimulant moderately increases blood pressure and heart rate, essentially acting as a “primer” for the body when consumed before exercise. However, perhaps the most significant performance enhancement due to caffeine comes from the widely documented decrease in rate of perceived exertion, allowing us to perform at a higher intensity.

Related: Mental Fitness

Another noteworthy effect is decreased fatigue as well as delayed onset of fatigue. These effects led early researchers to look almost exclusively at the connection between endurance performance and caffeine intake, and it has long been accepted that caffeine provides a slight – but statistically significant – improvement in endurance performance. More recently however, researchers have started to look at how caffeine effects shorter duration events like weightlifting and sprinting. Although the evidence is not yet conclusive, small improvements in lower body strength and overall power have been seen in some studies. The mechanisms behind these adaptations are not as thoroughly understood, but could be due to the fact that strength is highly correlated to central nervous system function.

Related: Why Motor Control Makes You Stronger

While all these performance effects might have you wanting to chug coffee ASAP, like any supplement, or really anything we consume at all, it’s important to consider the health effects outside of the gym. Since it is a drug, chronic ingestion of caffeine can lead to tolerance, meaning we might need consistently higher dosages to induce the same effects. Too much caffeine can also produce nervousness, restlessness, headache, gastrointestinal problems, and tremors. Also keep in mind that because caffeine increases alertness, it does have the potential to reduce sleep quality if consumed too close to bedtime (usually within 5 or 6 hours).

Related: 7 Bedtime Routines to Help You Sleep Tight

I’d also like to take a second to recognize that not all sources of caffeine are created equally. Energy drinks often contain a large amount of sugar, and adding creamer to coffee adds fat and calories that we might not remember to take into account, so caffeinate wisely. According to nearly all nutrition experts, caffeine can be part of a healthy diet, but as always, listen to your body and fuel it as necessary to feel your best in the gym and in life.

–Jay Alexander

Coach/Trainer

jay@crossfitslipstream.com

Simple Guide to Meditation

Last week, we explored some bedtime routines that could aid us in getting better sleep. This week, we’ll take a closer look at another tool we can use to help us feel well rested and focused: meditation.

Related: 7 Bedtime Routines to Help You Sleep Tight

Not too long ago, whenever someone would say the word “meditation”, I would picture monks sitting in a dark room chanting in foreign languages and think, “I can’t do that. Besides, who has the time to just sit there anyway?” So before we get to the how-to of meditation, I’d like to take moment to dispel some common thoughts you might be holding onto.

“Meditation has changed my life for the better, making me more productive and steady in mindset.”

First of all, there is no right or wrong way to meditate. In fact, you’ve probably already meditated, you just didn’t know it. It can be as simple as closing your eyes and taking a deep breath. Secondly, meditation is for everyone, as it can benefit nearly every aspect of life from work to relationships. As your mind releases stress while you meditate, your body can enter deeper rest than when you’re sleeping, which leads to an abundance of mental and physical benefits. Consistent meditation can strengthen the immune system, reduce blood pressure, and help you sleep better. On the mental side, focus improves, leading to higher rates of productivity, creativity, and connection to those around you.

Related: How do I Create Lasting Change in My Life?

If any of these benefits sound worthwhile to you, but you’re not sure where to begin, I’ve put together four simple steps to help get you started.

Step 1 – Get comfortable. This could mean lying in your bed, or sitting on a pillow or your favorite chair. Find a position that feels comfortable for you so that you can release tension in your muscles and focus your attention inward.

Step 2 – Breathe. Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths in your nose and out your mouth. Even if you stop here you’ll feel better.

Step 3 – Repeat your mantra. Choose a single word or phrase you want to bring more of into your life and softly repeat it in your head. If you notice your thoughts drifting at any point, don’t worry about it, just come back to your mantra. If you’re having trouble thinking of a mantra, use a simple one like an “I am…” statement, or continue to focus on your breath.

Step 4 – Reawaken the body. After what you think has been the 5 or 10 minutes you intended to meditate for, take a long, deep breath in and out, wiggle your fingers and toes, and slowly open your eyes.

Meditation has changed my life for the better, making me more productive and steady in mindset. If doing it on your own seems intimidating, keep in mind that there are tons of free resources online – and even apps now – that offer guided meditations and may take some of the pressure off. I highly recommend meditating in the morning, before the day has flooded the mind, but whenever works best in your schedule works too, whether that’s before bed or during a lunch break. My hope is that in time, you can find benefit from this practice like I did, and add it to your toolkit of ways to recharge.

–Jay Alexander

Coach/Trainer

jay@crossfitslipstream.com

CrossFit – Games & Play 

I just had my first opportunity to attend the CrossFit Games, thanks to the decision to move them to Madison, Wisconsin.  It was a great, eye-opening experience I’m delighted I went, and I will definitely go next year.  I will, however, do things a little differently next time.

I’ve always had a bit of an issue with CrossFit as a competitive sport.  It starts with the fact that I’d lose a lot, which tends to put a damper on the competitive spirit.  But much more importantly, CrossFit is a fitness program that can and does improve health, wellness, and mental well-being.  That is what it is, and what it is for.  That it can be done competitively is at most icing on the cake.  The Games and the hype surrounding them has a tendency to cause us to lose that focus.  It also looks a little strange to non-CrossFitters:

New Girl’s Max Greenfield Is Obsessed with Watching People Do CrossFit

Fortunately, the creator of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, recognizes this and is working hard to remind us that the true purpose of CrossFit is to improve our health.  Glassman has established the CrossFit Sports and Health Sciences Institute, which held a “Health Conference” the day before the Games began to address issues of corruption in the health sciences and how to find trustworthy health information.  Efforts like these will help pull our focus back to our true purpose.

Related: What Do You DO at a CrossFit Box?

What I plan to do differently next time goes right along with this renewed focus on CrossFit for health and fitness: I plan to take part!  No, not as a Games competitor.  That’s a little more than a year out ;-P.  I only found out a few days before the Games that there is a “Fittest Fan” ‘competition’, for people like me – we love CrossFit, and want to keep working out during the Games, and need an avenue to do that.  Plus, it’s fun opportunity to try new things and do events we normally don’t have a chance to do, like the run-swim-run.  I decided to stick to the original plan to just go and experience the Games this year, but next year I’m on it!

Related: CrossFit? But I’m a (Bike Racer/Runner/Obstacle Course Racer/Triathlte/etc.)

After we arrived at the Games, I learned that there are seminars on CrossFit specialty areas like aerobic capacity, weightlifting, and the like.  There was also an area for affiliate owners to gather, socialize, and perhaps compare notes.  So next year, my time at the Games will focus on learning and growing my skills as a CrossFit trainer, and taking part in the community by working out with CrossFitters from around the globe.  There will be less time to watch the amazing athletes compete, but it’s easily worth the trade.  The Games will be in Madison for at least two more years, so I encourage you to go and take part!  Watch some, do some, maybe shop a little, and come home inspired to keep hitting it, and get better every day, like I did.

—John M Bryant

Founder & Head Trainer

john@crossfitslipstream.com

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